Playbacks revisited: asymmetry in behavioural response across an acoustic boundary between two parapatric bird species

in Behaviour
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Behavioural barriers to gene flow can play a key role in speciation and hybridisation. Birdsong is well-known for its potential contribution to such behavioural barriers as it may affect gene flow through an effect on territorial and mating success across population boundaries. Conspecific recognition and heterospecific discrimination of acoustic variation can prevent or limit hybridization in areas where closely related species meet. Here we tested the impact of song differences on territorial response levels between two adjacent Henicorhina wood-wren species along an elevational gradient in Colombia. In an earlier study, playback results had revealed an asymmetric response pattern, with low-elevation H. leucophrys bangsi responding strongly to any conspecific or heterospecific song variant, whereas high-elevation H. anachoreta birds discriminated, responding more strongly to their own songs than to those of bangsi. However, in that study we could not exclude a role for relative familiarity to the song stimuli. In the current study we confirm the asymmetric response pattern with song stimuli recorded close to and on both sides of the distinct acoustic boundary. Furthermore, we also show a previously unnoticed divergence in singing style between these two wood-wren species, which may contribute to an acoustically guided barrier to hybridization in this secondary contact zone.

Playbacks revisited: asymmetry in behavioural response across an acoustic boundary between two parapatric bird species

in Behaviour



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    Playback design in the previous study from Caro et al. (2013) compared to our own playback design. The black circle represents the lowest bangsi population. The dark grey circle represents the high bangsi population, which during the playbacks of Caro et al. (2013) was of undetermined species type. The light grey circle represents the anachoreta population. Arrows originate in the source of the stimuli and indicate where the playback was conducted.

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    Results of the playback experiments showing total number of songs recorded from all individuals for each song type. Bars on the left represent anachoreta response. Bars on the right represent bangsi response. Bars in grey represent response to anachoreta stimuli and bars in white represent response to bangsi stimuli. Asterisks over brackets between pairs of bars indicate that response to con- and heterospecific song in that species differed significantly. N=4×10, the same 40 individuals for each graph: (a) slow singing response; (b) fast singing response; (c) duet singing response. Note that the y-axes differ between the graphs due to the variation in occurrence among singing modes.

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    Examples of typical wood-wren songs: (a) anachoreta fast; (b) anachoreta slow; (c) bangsi fast; (d) bangsi slow.

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    Average song length: interval length ratio for pre-playback compared to post-playback activity (N=10, 5 anachoreta and 5 bangsi individuals). The song length/song interval length ratio gives a temporal measure of the singing speed. Measurements were taken from all the activities recorded for that individual, including response to both con- and heterospecific playback. Grey lines represent anachoreta individuals and black lines represent bangsi individuals. The dashed line indicates the division between fast and slow song, with a ratio < 1 indicating slow song and a ratio > 1 indicating fast song.

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